STILLWATER — Marcus Smart came clean Saturday. And was it ever cleansing, for him and the Cowboys and a big and boisterous crowd at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Admitting that he hadn't been having fun — not in a long time — despite his own recent declarations to the contrary, Smart looked like the 2012-13 version of himself, producing one of his signature stat lines: 16 points, a career-high 10 assists, six steals, three rebounds and two blocked shots.
And Smart's joy was evident, too, from the outset of what became a freewheeling and frolicking 84-62 rout of Texas Tech.
“That's exactly what it was, it was fun,” Smart said, “for the first time in a long time.”
“Probably the Memphis game,” he said.
And the first Memphis game, way back on Nov. 19. The Cowboys did a lot of winning after that, so the lack of smiles and good vibrations that had become so evident wasn't tied strictly to the losing streak that had stretched to seven games before Saturday.
“It's kind of what Coach Ford said to us in the locker room, this was one of the first times he'd seen us smile — everybody was out there smiling and having fun,” Smart said. “And that's what we need to get back doing. We just want to work on that every day.”
Smart went to work on that immediately in his first game back from a three-game suspension, pumping his fist repeatedly after a steal and a layup that became a three-point play when he was fouled and made the free throw in the game's opening minutes.
The sequence was vintage Smart from last season. And similar scenes followed — two steals off inbounds passes that led to back-to-back baskets; points coming from close range or at the line; assists going to each of the other four starters, plus reserve Christien Sager.
“I think Marcus was the difference,” said Le'Bryan Nash, who struck for three of his four dunks on feeds from Smart. “Getting our point guard back, our leader on the team … Marcus comes back and he responds — 10 assists, that's what helped us win, him just controlling the game. You can tell, he controlled the whole game.